Citizens’ assembly grapples with zeroing emissions from planes, cars and shopping baskets

7 Feb 2020

The newly elected Select Committee Chairs underline their support for Climate Assembly UK in advance of its second weekend meeting


This weekend sees the second meeting of Climate Assembly UK in Birmingham at which 110 people, representative of the public, debate issues that will directly affect their lives: how we travel, heat our homes and what we buy.

The assembly, commissioned by six cross-party House of Commons Select Committees, was set up to give people a say in how we meet the UK’s legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Ahead of the second meeting of Climate Assembly UK in Birmingham this weekend (7-9 February), the newly elected Chairs of the six Select Committees have stated the need to better understand public preferences on how the UK should reach net zero (quotes below).

Weekend two: 7-9th February

This weekend, assembly members begin to learn about energy supply and how we use that energy. They will then break into three groups to consider different topic areas of ‘how we travel’, ‘in the home’, ‘what we buy’ and ‘food, farming and land use’. These discussions will continue during the third weekend (Feb 28- March 1). For each topic, members will hear evidence on various options for what the UK could do to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and the different levers for making change happen.

Assembly members will hear presentations from a wide range of speakers and have the opportunity to interrogate them. For example, on transport, the speakers will discuss how to cut emissions from cars and alternative methods of transport and the potential implications of decarbonisation while advocates from the University of the West of England and Voltera will further the discussion and offer differing views on how to make change happen. A full list of panellists and speakers is available in advance, under embargo, from the Climate Assembly UK website.

Transport includes the journeys we undertake during our normal daily lives such as going to work, school or the shops, visiting relatives or going on holiday. Over the next two weekends we’ll be considering how we use both surface transport (like trains, cars, buses, walking and cycling) and air travel. We’ll be asking the members to consider how changes in how we travel can help get us to net zero greenhouse gas emissions. This includes measures which could shift journeys to less carbon intensive forms of travel or to improve the emissions performance of vehicles. They will also consider how we might cut the need for travel in the first place. With 110 assembly members in the room who have travelled to Birmingham, we will be drawing on their first-hand experiences and evidence from experts to consider how the UK can make changes in this key area of daily life.

Professor Jim Watson, one of the Assembly’s four Expert Leads, will provide an overview of surface transport and aviation.

All six Chair-elects have welcomed the opportunity to hear the views of the Assembly members and noted the value of the Assembly’s outcomes for informing their committees’ future work.

Clive Betts MP, Chair-elect of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee:

“The Climate Assembly UK is a positive step in engaging all sectors of society in understanding the issues that climate change may cause and examining solutions. The HCLG Committee has seen the value of citizens assemblies in our work on social care and I look forward to seeing the Climate Assembly’s conclusions.”

Greg Clark MP, Chair-elect of the Science and Technology Committee:

“Our 2050 net-zero target has established the UK as a global leader in the race to limit climate change. Ensuring that new technologies and new policies are adopted in a fair and practical manner is critical, so hearing where the Citizens’ Assembly has reached consensus on these issues is vitally important.”

Philip Dunne MP, Chair-elect of the Environmental Audit Committee:

“We are all too aware of the pressing climate emergency. As we move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, how people eat, travel and use energy in their homes will be brought into focus. With Climate Assembly UK considering these issues, I look forward to learning your views to inform our wider work as we move towards a prosperous, low-carbon future.”

Huw Merriman MP, Chair-elect of the Transport Select Committee:

“How we decarbonise UK transport requires careful consideration: investment in technologies such as electric cars will be important, but so will our own decisions as responsible citizens about how we travel. Climate Assembly UK gives us the opportunity to test how far the public will go in behaviour change. Without listening, we risk losing the public’s appetite to drive real change.”

Rachel Reeves, Chair-elect of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee:

“Climate change will have an impact on the way we all live which highlights the importance of engaging the public in the actions needed to tackle the climate emergency. I’m grateful to assembly members for giving up their time to learn about these issues and discuss the best course of action and it’s vital that, at the end of this process, the Government sits up and takes notice”.

Mel Stride MP, Chair-Elect of the Treasury Committee:

“The country must work together if it is to achieve net zero by 2050. Climate Assembly UK provides a great opportunity for the public to advise Parliament on real actions that the UK can take to end its contribution to climate change.”